In these remarkable stories, John Burnside takes us into the lives of men and women trapped in marriage, ensnared by drink, diminished by disappointment; all kinds of women, all kinds of men - lonely, unfaithful, dying - driving empty roads at night. These are people for whom the idea of 'home' has become increasingly intangible, hard to believe - and happiness, or grace, or freedom, all now seem to belong in some kind of dream, or a fable they might have read in a children's picture book. As he says in one story, 'All a man has is his work and his sense of himself, all the secret life he holds inside that nobody else can know.' But in each of these normal, damaged lives, we are shown something extraordinary: a dogged belief in some kind of hope or beauty that flies in the face of all reason and is, as a result, both transfiguring and heart-rending.
John Burnside is unique in contemporary British letters: he is one of our best living poets, but he is also a thrillingly talented writer of fiction. These exquisitely written pieces, each weighted so perfectly, opens up the whole wound of a life in one moment - and each of these twelve short stories carries the freight and density of a great novel.
John Burnside is amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 he became only the second person to win both the Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes for poetry for the same book,
Black Cat Bone. In 2015 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. He is a Professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.
"Each story has a splash of intense colour at the heart. These are Scottish versions of the stories of Raymond Carver. Burnside writes tough, home-grown prose that inhabits the story form with perfect fit." -- Brian Morton Independent "A haunting and beautiful collection that deserves to be read slowly and savoured but which you won't be able to put down." -- Caroline Jowett Daily Express "Masterly. A spiritual, haunting book." -- Francesca Angelini Sunday Times "Burnside's prose glitters." -- Leyla Sanai Independent on Sunday "Burnside brings a poet's linguistic precision and emotional acuity. The writer's deep, bloody engagement with the stuff of life can't fail to leave the reader enlivened, and keen to feel more." -- Hannah McGill Scotland on Sunday